Properties of erstwhile rulers under private laws: SC

The Supreme Court has held that succession to the properties declared by an erstwhile ruler to be his private ones on accession with the Dominion of India will be governed by his personal laws and not the one related to his rulership.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said such rulers were no longer rulers after the merger of their states with the Union, their personal properties would be devolved among the heirs as per the personal laws.

After signing the instruments of the merger, the bench said, “The rulers were no longer sovereign. There was no paramountcy vested in the rulers. They had no land other than the private properties. They had no subjects. They were rulers only in name, left only with the recognition of their original title, a privy purse, some privileges, etc.”

Thus, “the rulers were rulers only in name. They held no land except personal properties. There were no subjects. They were Maharajas or Rajas without a Praja; without any sovereignty; and without any territory,” the bench added.

The court passed its judgement while dealing with disputes on succession to the properties of Nawab Raza Ali Khan, the erstwhile ruler of Rampur.

It ordered that the parties would be entitled to succeed to the properties of late Khan as per the personal law. The top court set aside Allahabad High Court judgement which held that the properties gifted by the erstwhile Nawab to legal representatives of Nawab Syed Murtaza Ali Khan by creating 'The Raja Trust' were given to him only to maintain his status as the ruler and, therefore, could not be taken into consideration while deciding the issue of succession of the erstwhile Nawab of Rampur.

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